Introducing Wesley D. (Wes) Potter, Deputy to the Garrison Commander
September 13, 2013
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Fort Wainwright's deputy to the garrison commander, Wesley D. Potter, started in his position earlier this summer at Fort Wainwright, bringing with him a list of connections and experience to the installation's missions, both military and civilian.
Potter's familiarity with the Army and his feel for the military tempo came not only from his father's career as a helicopter pilot, but also from his own experiences as an Army Medical Service Corps officer and helicopter ambulance pilot.
His present career path started shortly after his retirement from the Army with 20 years of military service out of Camp Zama, Japan, in 1995. Retirement was a short run when in1996 he was offered a government service job to return to Camp Zama as a U.S. Army Japan G-3 operations officer.
"It was a time for big change in USAJ, as the Army was setting up the Installation Management Agency," Potter said.
Many of the organizations that were managing the installations at the time began converting over to garrisons under the umbrella of the Installation Management Agency. Working within the Area Support Group as it evolved, he was on hand to participate in its development as the newly formed garrisons and their infrastructures moved toward a uniform structure that we now know as the Installation Management Command.
As opportunities showed themselves, his progressive career took him and his family to Hawaii where he was an operations officer with Pacific Region Headquarters. He was selected to stand up the newly formed Directorate of Emergency Services of Pacific Region for IMA as director,and in 2008 he became the Chief of Operations for U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Pacific.
Being a part of the IMCOM process and having a strong background covering operations to emergency services, Potter saw a great opportunity expanding, and took on his first role as deputy to the garrison commander at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany. Even though their assignment was shorter than expected, Potter said he and his family enjoyed the assignment tremendously, both on and off post, but when the chance arose to move to Alaska, they decided to take it.
"The opportunity to come and work and live in Alaska is something that has been on our list for a while," Potter said, and by May 2013 he hit the ground running at Fort Wainwright.
When he first arrived to the Fairbanks area, one of the outstanding characteristics of the Interior and of the Fairbanks community that struck him was the close relationship the community had with the military. While waiting for household goods to arrive from overseas, much of their evenings were spent around town at different establishments meeting people and finding connections to the military practically everywhere.
Sitting through numerous briefings during visits by newly appointed U.S. Army Pacific and U.S. Army Alaska leaders he found many references to the community involvement of the military. One of the most interesting facts was that one-in-four people in the Fairbanks area have a direct military connection, either their own experience or a family member who is in the military. That connection, he said, is one of the great strengths in the relationship and communication the garrison shares with its local community.
The other strength is its ability to communicate and problem-solve with its own command structure.
"It's always evolving, it's a 'learning organization' and change is almost the norm," Potter said. "Priorities do change and IMCOM, to its credit, is tremendously flexible in its speed to adjust, and change and modify."
As the summer progressed and wildfires on military training grounds became the growing concern for both military and civilian communities, Potter pointed out the garrison was flexible enough to work issues up and down its command structure, receiving approval to pull employees from the furlough in order to fight the fire, all within a 24-hour period.
"That was kinda neat to see that happen," Potter said. "The garrison employees knew their jobs and all that was needed was to let them go and accomplish that mission." The importance of having that type of communication and flexibility makes possible the adjustments of workloads, ensuring that mission units were properly prepared to go downrange and while meeting training requirements locally, he said.
On task with serving the Soldiers, their families and civilians, Potter looks ahead with "Change will continue to happen."
"We still have a deployment cycle we have to support and in addition, we have many 'stay behind services' that we have to provide for the Families and civilian employees," Potter said. "I would not be surprised to see that resourcing continues to be a challenge for the next few years; it just is."
In these times it's all the more critical to keep good communications between the Fairbanks community, garrison leadership and senior command leadership going.
The experiences the Potter family has had with the community have been very positive and they look forward to their time here at Fort Wainwright working for the units and missions and experiencing the local community.